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2020 Holiday Survival Guide for Autistics #1

 

In this installment of the 2020 Holiday Survival Guide for Autistics you will get insights and tips into:
  • What to do if you are alone on the holidays
  • How to use past holiday events to help you this holiday season
  • 3 Clues you are saying “YES” too much and How to say NO
  • Going places and meeting new people
  • Sensory Challenges and Overwhelm
Download the Mind Your Autistic Brain Holiday Magazine along with 3 Gifts & 2 Bonuses including Tips for stressful family events and MORE.

There are many reasons we could be alone during the holidays, from moving too far from family to be together, COVID safety protocols, no family and the list goes on. I know how this feels because I have moved far from anyone I knew many times and been in this exact situation.

Start by redefining what the holidays mean to you. Not what some Norman Rockwell painting depicts, but what you think and feel the holidays should be to you and how you want to spend them. This can be anything. A cozy day in your pjs with a pizza and movies while cuddled up with your pet or a day filled with cookie baking, holiday movies and dancing in the kitchen.

What I found was really helpful for me during the holidays that I was on my own, helping others. I would call around to my local church or community center and find out what volunteer opportunities were available and signed up. I have to say that it was a little scary to show up where I didn’t know anyone, but it always turned out to be the best experience. I spent time serving others and paid attention to what someone needed and how I could help. I made wonderful connections and met people who I really appreciated.

When you have had negative experiences in past holidays, it can make you worried and afraid of a repeat the next time.

  • Begin by re-framing it. What did you learn or insight did you gain from the experience. Use the third party observer technique where you become a fly on the proverbial wall or view the event like you are watching a movie.

  • Next, ask yourself, “How can I use that experience to help me move forward and set boundaries for the future?”  

  • 3 Clues you are saying “YES” too much:

  1. You are busy all day long and your “to do list” is longer at the end of the day than when you started.
  2. You feel rushed and pressured all day long to complete each task and crash at the end of the day (Yep, I know that is sometimes our normal Autistic Day.
  3. You feel bad saying “NO”. You don’t want to disappoint or feel it is the only way to show you care.

REMINDER:

Every YES is a NO to something else.


Make a list of your top 5 things that bring you joy over the holidays. 

Is it watching holiday movies with hot coco?

How to say “NO” so you can say “YES” to 

your holiday top 5:

There are 3 components to saying “NO.” Here are the components and a short example script to help:

1. Appreciate the intent…

2. Be simple & clear along with a brief why….

3. Suggest an alternative

“Aunt Sally, thank you so much for inviting us to your holiday party Friday night.  We have enjoyed it so much in the past, but can’t attend this year.  The children and I have already made plans to have our family cookie and movie night that same evening.  We look forward to this night together all year.  I would love to plan a time to have coffee and visit after the holidays are over."

Going New Places and Meeting New People

For us autistics, this is a catch 22 a double sided coin.  What I mean is we both want and need solitude but also want and need other people.

Anxiety and depression are often rooted in isolation.  We want to be with others and to be part of the engagement BUT there is anxiety in being with others and being in new environments too. 

So how do we balance this?

  • Choose based on what feels most comfortable to you. You can say no and can also suggest alternatives. Use the tips above for saying NO.
  • Be open to trying new places and meeting new people in a way that works FOR you. 

Sensory Challenges and Overwhelm

1. Identify sensory challenges and issues you have experienced in the past.

2. Plan Ahead:

    * wear your noise cancelling headphones, light blocking glasses, etc. 

    * discuss with the host, family member or spouse ahead of time to plan your environment.  

For example, if you are light sensitive and the home has been too bright in addition to light dampening glasses you could ask if just the table lamps are used instead of the overhead lights to cut down on headaches etc.  Be sure to explain how the light effects you and ask in a way that shares your experience so that the person has a better understanding of why you are asking.

*Have a "Break Plan"  Have a spouse or close friend be a part of your break plan.  When the noise or other factors are getting to be too much have a signal word you can use or even just a tap on the person's arm, whatever works best for you, as a signal that you need to use your "Break Plan."  Have what that looks like planned in advance and have your person be there to help you get the break you need.  For instance, if it is too loud and you need to go outside, use your signal word and the person can help you by asking you, "Hey, would you like to go take a short walk outside with me for a moment?" and that allows you to have someone help you take your break.  It is always easier with a buddy.

With all these new tips and insights, take time to journal and write out what the holidays mean to you and what that involves: Who? What? How? Etc. 

Part of the wonderful gift of autism identification is the opportunity to begin crafting the life you want going forward.  Start with what you want a holiday to be in your life.

Happiest of Holidays to each of you.  I am thankful and grateful for each of you in my life and you are the whole reason Mind Your Autistic Brain Community exists.  

I love you dearly,

Carole Jean

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